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Summer, Swelter, Anger

July 13th, 2012  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  7 Comments

Image by Smurfy

Temperatures are up, so is the rage. We’re in the middle of a crime wave in New York, in Chicago, everywhere where there is heat and handguns.

The Guardian broke down a couple possible culprits for all the anger:

One theory holds that people are more easily agitated in the heat because adrenaline and testosterone levels rise in the warmer temperatures. If higher temperatures were causing greater crime rates, then we should see crime incidences peak when temperatures are at their highest.

A second theory is that more crime is committed when more people gather in public. During the summer, people – including, say, troubled teenagers who might otherwise be in school – spend more time outside, creating more opportunity for interactions of all sorts, including criminal behavior.

I have one more culprit to add to the list: summer break. In my house, there’s no hint of murder, but the anger is up all the same. Sure, it’s because I have a short fuse and am not a real grownup and so on, but it is also because all our months of work finely tuning a before-school routine has been obliterated by the end of school. First, there were the uncertain weeks of half-days and early dismissals. Then, several weeks of unscheduled time, with grandma or babysitters—they stop school, but work doesn’t stop for us. And now this: a new morning routine before their “camp”, a routine that apparently is too challenging for me and my überdawdlers to get done without some measure of tears and howling.

Two morning ago, I did not hit my children—that would be a bit gauche, dontcha think?—but I sure got an idea of why people do. A short time after they woke up, dewy and innocent, my 4 and 6 years old children began a campaign of willful obstinance and obstructionism. Each of the little tasks that make up the larger process of getting their asses out the door by 8:30 became an opportunity for them to flop on the couch, to fight with each other, to feign illness. The clock ticked on, my every instruction fell on on deaf ears, and eventually I lost what little cool I had woken up with.

Suffice it to say that there’s not much fun or function in yelling at people who weren’t listening when you were talking calmly. And yelling at kids in particular feels like it might be a good idea until you start doing it, and then you realize it’s just not that satisfying. When we finally got them to their little urban summer camp, we were an hour late, and I was a hot mess of remnant anger mixed with a bit of regret at being the kind of father who has to verbally trounce his kids to get them out the door.

This is not the first time I’ve struggled with anger at the kids. I wrote about it a while back in a post called The Cutest Thing I’ve Ever Wanted to Kill, whose title pretty much tells you all you need to know about that: Me driven somewhat insane by people I happen to care a lot about. That was not a winter post. That was dead of summer, with more unscheduled time, this in half-rural Missouri at my grandparents.

Let’s agree that summer is evil, then. It brings out the worst in everyone. It leads to gunplay and shouting at preschoolers. For parents, the question still remains: why? I obviously am tempted to blame summer camp and their set of new rules about what campers should wear in the morning, and how their change of clothes should be packed. But there’s a more troubling answer out there: maybe it’s all the extra time with the kids. Maybe I’m just not cut out to spend entire days consecutively with my children, at least not in my current incarnation, as a dude with a lot of work to do and not enough hours in the day to get it done. In summer, the demands from work stay the same, the demands from family go up. I lack the grace to balance it all. And, as always, the innocent (and the dawdling) suffer.


  1. Victor says:

    July 13th, 2012at 10:50 am(#)

    Maybe you’re anger and frustration is displaced. Maybe the work you do is too inflexible to allow for being the type of father you want to be. Don’t blame the kids when it’s the demands of the system and dominant culture that tear us apart from each other and trap us in their inhumane and unworkable schedules.

  2. Victor says:

    July 13th, 2012at 10:52 am(#)

    * your anger (damn autocorrect)

  3. Nathan says:

    July 13th, 2012at 11:04 am(#)

    I believe that’s “goddamned !&@#@! autocorrect”. And yes, no blame for the kids. More for me, maybe a little for society, etc…

  4. Carly says:

    July 13th, 2012at 11:45 am(#)

    I yell at them all year and feel bad. And yeah, they don’t listen to calm voice times three but do hup-to to angry voice, which is also sad. Summer has been better because I have fewer time-sensitive places to be. I think the key angry-making ingredient is parental need to get sh*t done. Add in normal child-like dawdling and bad things happen to all parents who aren’t preternaturally calm. Perhaps this is why authoritarianism was invented: make them scared of you all the time so they never engage in dawdling or fun in your presence, ever.

  5. Justin says:

    July 13th, 2012at 12:00 pm(#)

    “…a routine that apparently is too challenging for me and my überdawdlers to get done without some measure of tears and howling.”

    Fantastic. I laughed aloud at this little bit of confirmation of all my parenting fears.

  6. RaeAnne Pae says:

    July 13th, 2012at 12:05 pm(#)

    Hmmm, interesting how we all seem to thrive by schedules and systems. Even more interesting is how apparently adults are supposed to be better equipped in handling a lack of schedule and kids don’t yet have those tools. Although, that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier for us (adults). I like your awareness of how outside influences (lack of schedules/predictability and climate) can affect us so much.

  7. neal says:

    July 13th, 2012at 2:09 pm(#)

    My wife always dreads the summer because she knows I’m going to be irritable for about the next four months, give or take a little. She comes in for a hug and I’m all “No touching! Too hot for touching!”
    Since I’m a stay-at-home dad, and I try not to schedule too much into my day, I don’t get too mad about dawdling. But I sympathize with how hard it is to keep your cool when you have limited time and the kids have just got to GET ON BOARD. It’s one reason I hate travelling with my family. Planes wait for no toddler.

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